Spring is a great time to shop for a new home. As the weather in places like West Michigan and Greater Lansing begins to warm up, house hunting becomes a fun way to spend your weekends.
For most people, buying a home is the biggest, most important purchase they will ever make and will therefore require preparation and determination. Before hitting the road to find your dream home, take these steps to ensure you avoid turning your dream home into an unexpected nightmare.
1.Take the time to consider what you need, not just what you want.
You may have always dreamed of owning a cute, little bungalow near the beach, but the price of that home may strain or exceed your budget. Your dream bungalow may also be impractical if it has two bedrooms and you’ve got four kids.
Make a list of the features and options you really need to make your family comfortable and happy. Is a big yard important, or a third garage stall? Is it more practical to look near the city, or out in the suburbs where a big yard becomes a possibility?
Make a practical list and do your best to stick to it. If that list of options will fit in a cute little beach bungalow, then include them in your search. Otherwise, look for the potential homes that will meet your needs to ensure you will be happy there until those needs change.
2. Prepare for the hunt by building up your savings.
Once you know you are going to move, be sure to put some extra cash away for the down payment. The more cash you can put down, the better interest rate you may qualify for. A bigger deposit also means a smaller monthly payment, so put as much cash aside as you can.
To build up that reserve faster, make some small changes to your lifestyle and watch your savings account grow. Take an extra job or cut back on dinner’s out. Skip the movies or cancel some subscription payments. Pay off as much credit card debt as you can. There are a lot of little expenses you can eliminate to help build your cash reserve faster.
If you’re wondering how much you should have saved up, always talk to a trusted lender about it. They can help talk through the pros and cons of PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance), current interest rates, and estimated closing costs.
3. Explore the neighborhoods where you think you would like to live.
Unexpected environmental issues can make that must-have home into a must-sell. Are there train tracks nearby, and how much do they affect the home? If you only visit the home between the daily commuter train’s runs, you might not know how bad the noise from the train is inside.
A trucking office might add extra commercial traffic to the smaller streets in your desired neighborhood, or a popular shortcut might add excess commuter traffic to one or two of the streets in a neighborhood you like.
Research the neighborhood you think is ideal and make sure it really is. Talk to the residents and retail merchants, ask parents how they like living in the area. Make sure there are no hidden issues that might make you unhappy with your new home.
4. Check your credit and make changes as needed.
Your credit score can have a big effect on a lot of the financial pieces of buying your dream home. Your credit will change your interest rate, your monthly payment, and the overall cost of the home.
There can be a lot of hidden issues that drive down your credit score, but many of them can be repaired and small repairs can have a big effect on your score. Pay off old debts, or outstanding accounts and clean up any mistakes there might be on your credit report. By taking care of those little things, you can make your dream home more affordable.
5. Get a pre-approval from your lender.
Find out how much you have to spend before you go house hunting to avoid wasting your time, and the sellers. If you find a home and put down earnest money but cannot get financing after you’ve started the purchase process, you can even lose that cash.
Visit your favorite lender, but also shop around to find your best option so that you are ready to hunt for a home you can afford. Being prepared will prevent heartache that can occur if you begin the purchase process on the perfect home only to find out you can’t get financing.
6. Find a real estate professional to work with you during your house hunting adventure.
A good realtor can act as a guide, helping you find the neighborhood that has all of your desired attributes.
A real estate agent will also help you find the best school district for your kids, will know the local areas that best meet your lifestyle, and will have their finger on the pulse of the housing market, helping you make the best choices during your search for a new home.
There are a lot of tools online that can help buyers find a home these days, but there is no substitute for a real estate agent who has lived in your desired location for years and can even tell you where to get the best cheeseburger.
Take the time to prepare for your house hunt. Think about what you need to find in a new home before you go out and rush into a purchase. That little bungalow near the beach may fit your dreams, but may not fit your family comfortably.
With a little preparation and research, you can ensure that the house you love today is still the house you love ten years from now. There will always be another beach bungalow for sale when the time is right for you to buy that home, until then, find the home that makes you and your family happy and comfortable.